From: WBCSD
Published January 15, 2009 08:49 AM

EU environment agency outlines challenges for 2009

Tackling climate change and its consequences, reforming the EU's Common Agricultural Policy, improving air quality and reducing the environmental impact of biofuels will top the bloc's environmental policy debates in the coming year, according to the European Environment Agency (EEA).

The agency's 'snapshot' of key environmental policy debates in 2009 singles out "global diplomacy and the search for a successor to the Kyoto Protocol" as the main topic to be discussed, followed by adapting to climate change and water-management issues. 

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As for upcoming reform of the bloc's Common Agricultural Policy (CAP), thereport argues that current distribution of CAP funds "is not very effective from the perspective of achieving EU environmental objectives, in particular on nature protection". It suggests that the review should consider widening access to financial support to farmland "particularly rich in habitats and species of conservation concern", and particularly to "high nature value farmland". 

Intensive farms do not support biodiversity and are not all that dependent on CAP payments anyway, the EEA adds.

Regarding biofuels, the agency notes that "the switch from oil to bioenergy is not risk free" and a move towards large-scale bioenergy production would carry considerable environmental risk, particularly in terms of land-use change. 

The EEA thus believes that Europe should progress further by beginning to research advanced second-generation biofuels seriously to account for their effects on soil, water, biodiversity and CO2 emissions. 

The increasing impact of invasive alien species arriving in European ecosystems on agricultural yields, timber quality and Europe's fragile biodiversity in general are also listed among the major policy debates.

Other hot topics in 2009 include marine management and international waste imports and exports.

"The natural resources provided by the planet underpin our economic activity and the very cohesion of our societies," noted EEA Executive Director Jacqueline McGlade. However, while the world economy has grown rapidly, "our environment has suffered," she added, deploring that "the way we organise our economies does not give sufficient recognition to the dependent nature of this relationship". 

"Greenhouse gas emissions are just one symptom of a much deeper issue: our inability to live sustainably," she concluded.

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